Sunday, December 4, 2011

Milk! Have you got milk? Oh what I would do for a fresh glass of unadulterated milk!

Two of my cows in Godagama, Meegoda have just calved. The man who takes care of the cattle, decided to play a game of passive aggressive behavior against the supervisor and decided not to milk the cows. That is a serious problem as cows that are bred for milking must be milked, preferably twice daily, as otherwise they could be prone to disease as their calves can only drink a certain quantity.

In the case of local animals, most are not milked as they are grazing herds that lead a nomadic life and calves and mothers are taken out of pens in the morning and taken to far off grazing lands before they come home for the nights. I realized this when one of the boys who came to work for me from Ampara said that his family have a herd of over 100 animals and none were milked even for home consumption. The wealth is in the head of cattle, and whenever they need money they sell a bunch of animals for the best price they can get at the time. No doubt they end up in some abattoir to be eaten for flesh!

So we had to rush around to find a solution. Finding experienced people to manage a small herd is now impossible in Sri Lanka. They either have their own animals or once they get efficient and earn a decent income realize it is too much like hard work and change careers to easy and better paying jobs like security guards in Colombo doing night duty! So the next best was for me to use the services of a person who has his own animals, to come to my cowshed (too late in the morning) to milk the animals, and for him to take the milk along with his to the chilling center. Though his skill means he takes twice the volume of milk my lazy geezer could manage with his dexterity, I only get a fraction of the money per liter though with double the volume, it is still a better total income than the former state.

Two issues arise from this actual example. We are expected to become self sufficient in Milk production, by two principle means. One by large scale operations run with professionals, with a huge capital investment that requires a return, the other is from small timers with a few animals, who have to work very hard once they get the skills and knowledge of taking care of a herd, something that takes about 5 to 10 years of practical experience. The latter scheme has no future due to low productivity and few considering this as a livelihood. Simply do a survey of the government vets all over the country and get their first hand opinion of the “kiri goviyas” within their jurisdiction to get an opinion of the real deal. The overwhelming evidence is that despite the heavy emphasis by the State to develop this sector it is destined for failure. We are about to import many heifers from Australia or New Zealand. Who are we expecting to distribute them to?


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